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What's a (big) word or phrase to describe a book that is so good that I cannot put down when I start to read it?

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If you can’t put it down, you must be "gripping" it. ;) – user80365 Jun 16 '14 at 20:28
up vote 46 down vote accepted

"Page-turner" is common. I've heard people say "potboiler," but i believe this inapt, as "potboiler" originally meant a work churned out merely to earn some lunch-money.

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Sometimes called "Page-burner" as well. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 15 '14 at 19:46
Depending on the genre, "potboiler" could be used, especially for something like a trashy bodice-ripper. It might not be "good" in any literary sense, but if it makes money for the author, that's good enough (see original meaning). – Phil Perry Jun 16 '14 at 13:44
@PhilPerry, yes, but potboiler could serve just as well, if not better, for the sort of book where once you put it down, you can't pick it up. – Jon Hanna Jun 16 '14 at 16:03
LoL. James Bradley's "The Imperial Cruise." – steven king Jun 16 '14 at 16:22
@JonHanna, is there enough paper in the book to bring a small teakettle to a boil? – Phil Perry Jun 16 '14 at 21:24

Unputdownable has the exact meaning you described. Here's the FreeDictionary definition

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This word sounds like newspeak. Doubleplusgood! – Kevin Workman Jun 16 '14 at 16:31
@KevinWorkman Oh dear. I haven't actually heard anyone say "newspeak" since I read 1984. – Cruncher Jun 16 '14 at 20:05

The phrase compelling read is often used to describe a book or article that is so good that one is drawn to finish it.

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engrossing, absorbing, captivating, gripping, fascinating, riveting, consuming, addictive read

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“Page-turner” comes up top of mind.

Cambridge online English Dictionary defines “page-turner” as;

a book that is so exciting that you want to read it quickly.

Oxford online English Dictionary simply defines it as “an exciting book.

Merriam-Webster online Dictionary defines it as;

a book, story, etc., that is difficult to stop reading because it is so interesting

Kenkyu-sha Readers English Japanese Dictionary, the best-selling English Japanese dictionary published by Kenyusha Publishing defines “page-turner” as;

a book that is so interesting and exciting that you feel impatient to moving to the next page (turn pages).

As examples, I found the following phrase and sentences including "page-turner" and "turning pages" in the book review of Jeffrey Archer's "As the crow flies," which I picked to get an example of the use of "page-turner" at random;

  • A certified page-turner - New York Daily News
  • Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages - The Boston Globe
  • Mr. Archer tells a story to keep you turning those pages - The Washington Post.

Besides, the New Yorker magazine has “Page-turner: On books and writing life” page as its regular columm.

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Oprah calls them "books you can't put down" (as in 25 books you can't...). Good Reads and Amazon advertises her choices using that phrase as well.

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+1 for Good reads – Emmanuel Angelo.R Jun 16 '14 at 12:47

Relentless. Take-no-prisoners. Driven. Fast/-paced. (non-stop, etc.)...race to the end. Rip-roaring.

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When you are reading a nail biter you cannot wait to see what is going to happen next and surely can't put book down.

: something (such as a game or movie) that causes people to feel nervous because the ending is not known until the final moment

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When you read a phenomenal book you want to read the book over and over again. Trust me you'll know what kind of book that is.

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